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Advice On Bass Soloing?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Deoindra123, Mar 14, 2013.

  1. Deoindra123


    Jan 25, 2013
    I'm a fan of Victor wooten, wayman tisdale, larry graham, Jaco Pastorius and lots of others! But when I see them solo its like wow i wanna do that! I know how to improv a little bit but want to be really good at it till i master the technique! Any advice or what scales should I learn? Thanks 4 all help!:bassist:
  2. Short answer - learning to improvise at the level of any good player is a life-long endeavor, and there's no short cuts. No secret scales, notes, techniques, licks, none of that. Jaco's playing the same notes and scales we're all playing.

    Best advice - find a teacher that is proficient in teaching improvisation (doesn't have to be jazz, although a good understanding of jazz improvisation can be applied to any style of music), listen to those players as much as possible, then (and this is the important part): sit down with your bass and learn as many of those basslines/solos as you possibly can. Improvising at a high level is as much about your ear being in good shape, and playing what you hear in your mind, as it is about any technical abilities on the bass itself. Jaco himself said "I know where I stole every note" - learning, analyzing, and internalizing the basslines of your favorite players will give you a starting point from which to create your own music.

    Again - there's no shortcuts, no secrets here. Just hard work, focused listening, and lots of practicing.
  3. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Which Victor wooten, wayman tisdale, larry graham, and Jaco Pastorius songs are you currently learning/transcribing/practicing? This is the time-honored path to good soloing: learn the song so well that you can create your own original musical ideas that fit the structure of the song. It's like if your friends are hanging out having a conversation, and you want to join the conversation: first you need to listen and figure out what they're talking about, so you can make a relevant contribution to the conversation. Don't be that annoying guy who tells the same joke over and over again regardless of the conversation (i.e. the bassist whose idea of soloing is playing scales)! :)

    If you are looking for song suggestions, then ask! For example I would recommend "The Chicken" as a good intro to Jaco's style.
  4. michele


    Apr 2, 2004
    I wouldn't stress too much on transcribing and learning solos from great players. Don't get me wrong: it's a useful thing to do BUT that's usually see as a shortcut and that's a very bad thing.
    Remember that the incredible soloing skills of master players are the fruit of years of studying and practicing: harmony, technique etc.
    Now you can have a certain technical ability to measure yourself with, let's say, a Jaco solo and you could practice it to the point you can handle it BUT until you understand what's behind his note choice, what's goin' on from an harmonic standpoint you will just repeat something. And that would do no good for your growth as a musician.
    I would suggest to immerse yourself into studying harmony and technique. Write down a study plan, a daily practice schedule and go for it. Look at the basics and build from the foundations, one brick at the time. Don't look at anything like it's granted: if you look deep even that old exercise you think you dominate could still teach you something.
    Nowadays in the internet era there are tons of options and tons of educational material you could have access to.
    I have choose to study with Tony Grey. He is an amazing musician and a very talented teacher who has developed an internet educational resource named Tony Grey Bass Academy. It's incredible what a single month there has done for my playing. Can't even imagine what will happen in a year.
    Do yourself a favour and check it out: http://tonygreybassacademy.com/
  5. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    I'm sorry but I have to strongly disagree with this statement. Transcribing solos by Jaco, Wooten, Ray Brown, Ron Carter, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix, or whatever players/genres you enjoy, is an essential step to becoming a master soloist.

    An analogy is if you want to become a great public speaker/orator. Can you learn how to do that by practicing your spelling and grammar? Of course not, you must study the great speeches by Lincoln, JFK, MLK, etc. if you hope to master this art form.

    Don't take my word for it. First enjoy this lovely Stevie Wonder song:

    Does it sound good because: A) Victor has a solid theoretical understanding of all the scales, chords, and modes, or B) Victor loves this song, has listened to it a thousand times, and has learned every note?

    Not sure how you can label the process of learning the song over which you want to solo a "shortcut" and "very bad thing." If you are instructing the OP that it's possible to learn to solo like Jaco/Victor/etc. without learning any Jaco/Victor/etc. solos, I think that is seriously misguided advice. :(
  6. tgouh

    tgouh Banned

    Nov 28, 2010
    I think the answers are both options, like Mr. Victor Wooten said: Scales, techniques, chords are only the tools, but the main source came from our self, from our mind, our heart. How do we grow as musician? Of course by listening to other musician. That things will help us develop our musicianship, and by using the correct and proper 'tools' we can 'speak' what do we wanna say..
  7. Schmorgy


    Jul 2, 2012
  8. Seeing your list of suggested jazz/fusion bassists, I'd suggest learning from Jeff Berlin's style. He plays a lot like Jaco (and I don't like Jaco but I still can hear). Here are some good songs to learn solos from.

  9. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    The problem with music theory is that it can be very ambiguous. In another thread, we have some very knowledgeable and experienced players disagreeing over what key "Sweet Home Alabama" is in. But there is no ambiguity about transcribing and learning Ed King's guitar part; you can either play correctly or not (and transcribing it might give you some insight into which key the composer thinks the song is in). I see a lot of people on that other thread arguing "Sweet Home is in D" or "Sweet Home is in G" but many of their arguments are abstract and not based on the actual experience of listening to or better yet transcribing the song.

    I am a big fan of learning theory (I have a degree in it ;)) but don't fall into the intellectual trap of turning off your ears.
  10. Schmorgy


    Jul 2, 2012
    I think of theory like learning to drive a car.

    If someone quizzes you on what various manoeuvres are, what the signs mean, or how to parallel park, it's good form to be able to know everything about it.

    But when you get behind the wheel, you don't think of any of it and just apply what you know subconsciously.
  11. michele


    Apr 2, 2004
    I clearly stated at the beginning of my post that transcribing and learning solos from the master is a useful thing to do BUT that's often seen as a shortcut. THAT is the bad thing.
    A lot of people see it this way: "Oh wow! I want to solo like Jaco (or Victor or whatever) so I'll burn my brain and fingers around that particular solo until I could play it."
    Wrong. That is plain wrong. That could only hurt you.
    I've seen too many people playing Jaco, Marcus, Victor licks and solos (and Miles, Charlie etc.) impressing the masses. And then get stucked into cliches, repetitive and boring ideas when called to solo over two non-related chords.
    Again, transcribing and studying a particular solo of a master player is useful WHEN you already have a solid and deep harmonic and technical knowledge that allow you to go through said solo in a fruitful way.
    It couldn't be your first step into studying improvisation. Otherwise it will simply hurt the musician in you.
    Hope I've expressed my thought more clearly.

  12. Melamel


    Apr 25, 2011
    That is a great VW video. I love how he slips in "raindrops keep falling on my head" midway through his improvisation. I did not notice it until I read about it in another post. He really demonstrates warmth and humanity in his playing.
  13. My best advice to playing solos and improving is as follows:

    Practice. Practice, practice, practice as much possible. The more time spent practicing, the better. It gets you in tune with the music. And no, I don't mean go over scales for hours at a time, although you should learn them well. Practice over challenging songs, practice over geometrical shapes on the fretboard, even practice by copying what you hear on T.V. Knowing your fretboard is absolutely essential.
  14. derrico1

    derrico1 Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2005
    Charlottesville, VA
    I agree that you want to borrow nasty licks from great soloists (not just Victor, Jaco, and Mingus--but also Bird and Miles and Ella and anyone who is a monster, whatever the instrument). But you don't want to be the guy who forces in his memorized Jaco licks, no matter what the rest of the band is doing. Ideally, you want to hear many possibilities for where you might take a solo. For that you need to develop both a vocabulary and your ears.

    To that end, to the suggestions folks have made above, I'd add two others: ear training (esp. recognizing intervals and chords), and deeply learning as many melodies as you can. (That is, don't just train yourself to play a melody over its changes, but learn a melody by woodshedding it and its harmonized variants over those changes, by practicing grafting that melody onto other songs, and by playing with shifting from one melody to another within a song/chorus/phrase.)
  15. bassdog


    May 23, 2005
    Atlanta, Ga
    "Transcribing solos by Jaco, Wooten, Ray Brown, Ron Carter, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix, or whatever players/genres you enjoy, is an essential step to becoming a master soloist. "

    So how did the guys "back in the day" learn to play/solo?

    It is my limited understtanding that stuff was learned by experimenting, creating and listening. That teaching/learning was largely aural and folks some fine players didn't necessarily know how read music very well, if at all.

    Don't you have to know how to read well to be able to transcribe? It takes me forever to transcribe even pretty simple stuff but I can usually hear it an learn it from knowledge of chords and hearing patterns and having pretty good ears.

  16. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    By "transcribe" I really meant "listen and learn," whether your comfort zone is standard notation, TAB, or just playing it on the bass by ear. I don't know how guys learned "back in the day" but I suspect the top guys all had pretty amazing ear training. :)
  17. bassdog


    May 23, 2005
    Atlanta, Ga
    I thought transcribe meant write it out. Maybe not?
  18. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    You are correct of course; I am merely clarifying my original comment so nobody twists my words to give the impression I was saying that notationally-illiterate musicians can't learn to improvise. :)
  19. mbeall


    Jun 25, 2003
    With regards to which scales to learn I would say all of them and I also second the rest of the great advice so far but since the OP is a beginner based on the question I feel the need to emphasize this.......

    As bass players we tend to focus on the job of the bass in the ensemble, support. This does not lend itself to building a vocabulary for soloing. So with that in mind, learn melodies. Lots of 'em. I mean the stuff you already know. e.g. Happy birthday, Mary Had a Little Lamb, The Star Spangled Banner, church hymns, any and every tune that you already know by heart from your childhood up to now. Learn it on your bass and play it like you'd sing it. Do this for every new song you learn as well. Besides laying the ground work for becoming a more melodic soloist you 'll be amazed at how much better a support player you will become if you actually know the melody the tune you are supporting.
  20. tony grey

    tony grey

    Oct 2, 2006
    Endorsements; Yamaha, Fodera, Aguilar, TC Electronic, Peterson, Zoom
    Hi guys..I'm just reading through this thread and thought I'd add my views.
    I think a certain knowledge of harmony and how chords are constructed for you to be able to play a good solo. There is no real way around it as far as I can see.
    Nothing spells out the harmony more so than the chord tones so have complete control over how you use these chord tones will really help you. Approaching chord tones chromatically or with a diatonic approach is a good way to outline the harmony but helps you get into the tension and release concept. A good example to get you going is to approach Chord Tones from a scale degree above.
    Bass players tend to lead off from the root in there solos which can be a bad habit and can end up restricting you to the same vertical patterns. So I also advise you to learn the chord tones and upper structure tensions. Play these shapes in full starting from each chord tone and tension. For example Minor 7 chords. R, b3, 5, b7, 9, 11, 13 then b3, 5, b7, 9, 11, 13, R etc ascending and descending in all keys. If you play along with a sustained chord you can train your ears to hear above the Root.
    I think it's a good idea to transcribe what moves you but also find ways of recreating what you love with your own voice. Writing out and composing your own soloing using those techniques you love is also a great way to improve your knowledge and a great way to start creating your own voice. Hope that helped...

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